Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Tibet Travel log 2, Back in Chengdu

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February 2012

After a failed attempt to go from Chengdu to the Tibetan area’s I decided to check out Wuhouci, the Tibetan neighbourhood in Chengdu. Wuhouci is very close to a few tourist attractions where Chinese tourists and some western tour groups are on a souvenir hunt largely unaware of the situation on the other side of the street. It is a strange experience to walk from to tourist area into Wuhouci.

At the entrance of the main street in Wuhouci two military with automatic rifles are positioned. But it seems to be possible to enter the street, so I ‘casually’ walk on. About every 30 to 50 meters a police car with flashing lights is positioned in the street, every 100m in addition a little white van with about 15 heavily armed riot police is stationed.

The police comes to talk to me, no photo’s of the police. OK that means no photo’s at all, as taking photo’s without also catching a police man/woman or a car seems impossible. I walk on, around the corner, that does not help, two police cars are parked there as well, 4 more further down the road. One of the busy tea houses is closed, locked from the outside a police car in front of the door, the same for the Buddhist center. I see very few monks and nuns in the streets and if I see them they tend to wear normal clothing and not their monk robes.

The police keeps on walking behind me, a police car is following me. I walk into a shop, the car is waiting. Back in the street I turn again, after 30 meters another police car, 2 more about 50 meters further down the street, 2 more police vans as well. I am still followed by the car.

At this point I am seriously annoyed by the situation, so I decide to have lunch to see what the police will do. I sit down in one of the hole in the wall basic restaurants. The police car waits in front of the restaurant so they can keep an eye on me. The Tibetan staff is very friendly and slightly amused by the attention I attract. They keep on poring me tea and bringing rice, gesture me to stay, but of course in this setting a conversation is out of the question. Thus, our joint very small deed of resistance is to have a very long lunch with the sole purpose to annoy the police outside.

The next day I fly back home. This situation is hopeless, I will not get access to anything Tibetan at least until April.

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Written by Marieke ten Wolde

June 7, 2012 at 15:09

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